Honesty can be tough, but it’s worth it!
We recently had a client contact us with a serious problem. She said, ‘My son won’t let me leave preschool. He can’t stop crying. It’s like he thinks I’ll never come back for him.’
She revealed that, since he would have a fit if he knew she was leaving, she frequently snuck out the back door. He was busy playing with and didn’t realize that she had left until later. ‘It’s way easier to leave if he doesn’t know I’m going.’ she explained.
This parent’s behaviour is telling the child: ‘I may leave you at any moment. You will never know when I am leaving.’ As a direct result, he is terrified to let her out of his sight. At least when he can see her he knows that she is there. He can’t trust her.
Honesty doesn’t often feel like the easy way out. Sometimes our kids don’t like the truth. However, if honesty is an important family value to you, it is critical that you model it so that your kids learn it. Kids learn what they live. If you say that honesty is important, and then sneak out the door or make up lies about why you won’t be attending a party or pretend that your child is younger to save yourself an admission fee, you are teaching your children that honesty is not important.
After some counselling, our client really changed her ways. It wasn’t easy at the start, but has become so much easier over time. She made a plan to never sneak out on her son again. We taught her strategies to teach him to use his courage and get through saying goodbye. She and her son planned a script, called their ‘Goodbye Plan.’ She would say, ‘I’m heading out, I know you can use your courage and have fun with your friends. Let’s do our goodbye hug.’ He would then say, ‘I’ll miss you mom and I can do it.’ Then they would hug and count to five and then give each other a high five. They used the Goodbye Plan regularly and he became more confident that he could trust her.
The great news is that modelling honesty with young children sets up a pattern for honest communication in the future.
Image of tears from Shutterstock
Many kids grow accustomed to mom or dad saying things three or four times. They don’t really even have to listen until a parent is frustrated and yelling at them. So how do we change this habit?
We make sure that we only ask once, and expect kids to act the first time.
Remember to follow AID:
Attention: Get your child’s attention before you ask them to do anything. If they are watching TV, get between them and the box. If they are across the school yard, go to them. You need to be right beside the child.
Instruction: Once you have your child’s attention, give the instruction. Don’t ask, ‘Are you ready for dinner?’, say, ‘It’s time for dinner.’
Direction: You are right beside your child so if they don’t listen, now is the time to direct them to do the behaviour. ‘Are you turning off the TV or am I? Are you walking up to dinner on your own or with my help?’
When we ask things once and expect our kids to follow through the first time, we are teaching them a new habit.
Remember: Do not ask your kids to do something unless you are right there to ensure that it will happen the first time. This is especially important for parents with an infant and an older child. Too often, we repeatedly ask the older child to do something while we are changing the baby’s diaper. The older child knows that we cannot enforce our request so it falls on deaf ears.
This sounds like a hassle and it does require extra effort up front. However, it stops the energy-drain and frustration that comes from nagging incessantly and it teaches your kids to respond the first time. Once you’ve changed the habit, you can experiment with how far you need to be from your child when you give an instruction.
Image of yelling parents from Shutterstock.